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Green Infrastructure Takes Root in Pennsylvania

On November 18, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay staff had the chance to attend a showing of the documentary “Water Blues, Green Solutions” in Harrisburg, PA. The event was hosted by Capital Region Water, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. The evening began with a showing of the film, followed by a discussion of recent green infrastructure initiatives in Harrisburg.

Forum attendees share a discussion on forest management strategies with the Alliance’s Chesapeake Forest team.

“Water Blues, Green Solutions” introduces viewers to the water issues faced by Philadelphia, San Antonio, and the Bronx. Each of these cities has different water-related problems—for example, Philadelphia has too much stormwater flowing off its buildings and streets into storm drains, which can cause the combined sewer/stormwater system to overflow into Philadelphia’s rivers. San Antonio, on the other hand, is in the middle of a severe four-year drought, and has to find creative ways to conserve water! What each city has in common is that they are using nature and green infrastructure to clean their water and create more beautiful, healthy communities.

Philadelphia is tackling this head-on with a plan called “Green City, Clean Waters”, which was signed in June 2011. The program will invest $2.4 billion in green infrastructure and water treatment plants over 25 years. Examples of the city’s green infrastructure plans include rain gardens, permeable pavement, green roofs, and downspout planters-just to name a few! Philadelphia ultimately plans to convert over one-third of its impervious cover to green infrastructure.

Frank and Audrey Peterman, the 2015 Forum’s Plenary Speakers, encouraged attendees to work towards greater inclusion and diversity in the conservation movement.

After showing the film, Capital Region Water led a discussion on ways that techniques seen in the film can be applied to Harrisburg. Like Philadelphia, Harrisburg has a combined sewer/stormwater system that can overflow into the Susquehanna River during rainstorms. This pollution not only impacts local waterways—it eventually reaches the Chesapeake Bay. Luckily for Harrisburg and the Bay, Capital Region Water was recently awarded a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to install green infrastructure in Harrisburg. Several film attendees expressed their interest in seeing “green streets” in Harrisburg, which include the planting of trees and native plants along sidewalks and curbs. The audience agreed that Harrisburg, as Pennsylvania’s capital, should lead by example and inspire other Pennsylvania cities to use green infrastructure in the future.

The Alliance has helped build partnerships and develop strategies for multiple green infrastructure projects in the Harrisburg area. These include:

  • Working with partners to develop the “Harrisburg Water Education Project” to educate municipal officials, neighborhood and service organizations, and others about stormwater and green infrastructure
  • Investigating green infrastructure opportunities in the Harrisburg neighborhoods of Camp Curtin and Landmark
  • Establishing and educating residents about “Green Streetscapes” in Lemoyne, on Harrisburg’s West Shore

The Alliance looks forward to seeing green infrastructure move forward in Harrisburg (and the rest of the Chesapeake Bay watershed) to help solve our “water blues”—and we’ll be there helping however we can!

 

Check out the “Water Blues, Green Solutions” website for more information and to watch clips from the film.

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Jenna Mitchell Pennsylvania State Director, Pennsylvania Office

Jenna serves as the Alliance's Pennsylvania State Director, where she oversees our PA staff and manages several projects in the region.

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